Prime Minister Imran Khan’s choice of state visits so far has shown a consistent strategic policy- with the PM opting to visit regional allies and countries with similar cultures, rather than the USA or Europe. After Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia and China, it seemed only natural for the next state visit to be that of the nearby Muslim majority country Turkey, whose President Recep Erdoğan has often been the recipient of grand praises by Imran Khan. Khan’s rhetoric since his coming into power has often mentioned “Madina’s riyasat” and what speaks of Muslim brotherhood more than an image of the PM offering fateha with our Turk brothers at the beautiful tomb side of Mevlana Rumi in Konya?

There were also far more practical reasons for the visit. The government hopes that the visit will help explore new avenues of collaboration between the two countries, particularly in the areas of economic, trade and commercial relations The PM reiterated his government’s resolve to eradicate corruption which had made it difficult for Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to flourish and genuine entrepreneurs to prosper, and assured Turkish investors that new economic policies of Pakistan would make it safer to invest into.

It was perhaps particularly important that Imran Khan himself go, due to past statements that Khan had made towards Pak-Turk schools. Khan had opposed Erdoğan ’s demand of closure of Pak-Turk schools, established by Fethullah Gulen, who Erdoğan blames for the coup. Khan now seems to have shifted his stance since then, welcoming Erdoğan’s thanks for transfer of the schools. The change in position indicates that Khan’s problem had perhaps more to do with the political party enforcing the policy of closing Pak-Turk schools, rather than with the policy itself – a shifting of stances which should serve as a lesson to those who still believe politics is principled.

The state visit to Turkey was a good idea and we hope it strengthens ties with Turkey and brings good outcomes. With the state of international relations today, with a reluctant USA and hostile India, it is important for Pakistan to rely on regional allies, and Turkey, with its Islamic culture, ease of travel and shared history holds a special place in Pakistani people’s hearts. It should not be forgotten that during the vote on US’s motion to ‘grey list’ Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary meeting, the only country left opposing the motion was Turkey. This alliance must be maintained and strengthened.